Daniel Miller forged a fascination with the connection between art and the natural world at a very young age.
Inspired by a recording of the children’s story “Mr. Bach Comes to Call,” which dramatized the famed composer’s life and described how the space probe Voyager 1 carried Bach’s music as well as sounds of planet Earth on its deep-space mission, a five-year-old Miller took take his first steps as a composer by imitating the shapes of music notation.
“Even as a child, it was an exciting idea that these few pieces of music, along with sounds of the planet itself, were chosen to represent the best of humanity,” said Miller.
Eighteen years later, Miller is an accomplished composition and music theory major at Lawrence University, specializing in computer music and its potential to incorporate the power of natural soundscapes.
Beginning in August, he will spend a year traversing the globe as a 2013 Watson Fellow, seeking out communities of fellow computer-music composers who are working outside the traditional boundaries of classical art music.
A senior from Redmond, Wash., Miller was one of 40 undergraduates nationally awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the Rhode Island-based Thomas J. Watson Foundation for a wanderjahr of independent travel and exploration outside the United States on a topic of the student’s choosing.
His proposal —“Experiencing Nature Through Computer Music”— was selected from 148 finalists representing students from 40 of the nation’s premier private liberal arts colleges and universities. More than 700 students applied for this year’s Watson Fellowship.
“I want to experience some of the most moving natural settings in the world along with the communities and artists who work closely with the environment,” said Miller, who was home schooled by his parents. “During my Watson year, I want to explore the unusual synthesis of the ancient and the high-tech, the natural and the synthesized in the form of modern computer music.
Lawrence University, "Senior Daniel Miller Awarded $25,000 Watson Fellowship for Exploration of Natural Soundscapes and High-tech Music" (2013). Press Releases. Paper 23.